US Coins

Finest known Gold Brasher doubloon in FUN auction

The 1787 Brasher, Punch on Wing doubloon, which sold for $4,582,500 Jan. 9 after being owned by Chicago numismatist Walter Perschke since 1979, is expected to be put on public display in 2014 at major coin shows across the United States.

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The finest known of seven examples of 1787 Brasher doubloon, off the market for more than 30 years, will cross the auction block Jan. 8 in Orlando, Fla.

The Brasher doubloon owned by Chicago numismatist Walter Perschke since 1979 will be offered without reserve by Heritage Auctions during its Platinum Night session. The auction is being held in conjunction with the Florida United Numismatists Convention at the Orange County Convention Center.

Perschke’s Brasher doubloon was certified in June 2012 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. as Mint State 63 and recently stickered by Certified Acceptance Corp.

At the time of the NGC certification, the doubloon was announced as a “$10 Million Coin.”

“We expect it will bring $5 million or more and set a new record as the most valuable early American gold coin — and third most valuable of any U.S. coin — ever sold at auction,” said Jim Halperin, co-chairman of Heritage Auctions.

The most recent Brasher doubloon to trade hands is the unique 1787 Brasher, Punch on Breast doubloon, which was sold by Blanchard and Co. on Nov. 29, 2011, in a private transaction to an anonymous buyer for a reported $7,395,000.

The unique variety, graded About Uncirculated 50 by Professional Coin Grading Service, garnered the then third-highest price ever paid for an American coin.

Perschke’s coin and five others exhibit the New York silversmith and gold Smith Ephraim Brasher’s EB punch on the eagle’s right wing (viewer’s left).

Perschke acquired the Newlin-Davis coin for the then record price of $430,000 during Rare Coin Company of America Inc.’s July 27, 1979, segment of Auction ’79. The price realized included a 10 percent buyer’s fee added to the final closing hammer price.

Perschke’s acquisition of the coin created quite a stir in the marketplace.

According to a recent press, Perschke said, “It’s been an exciting adventure!” He recalled the media frenzy when he purchased the coin. “Immediately after the auction, I was interviewed for the CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite.”

For a number of years after Perschke’s acquisition, the coin continued to be exhibited at public venues.

Several weeks after its purchase, Perschke took the Brasher doubloon to Maryland for a videotaping of the popular PBS television program, Wall Street Week With Louis Rukeyser.

“I carried the coin in my vest pocket,” Perschke said. I flew in and out the same day, so I was in the air when the show aired, and the coin soon was safely back in the vault in Chicago.”

Perschke displayed the coin in 1987 as part of the national “Roads To Liberty” tour in celebration of the bicentennial of the United States Constitution, then exhibited it for a year at EPCOT Center at Disney World in 1988. It was then secured in a Chicago-area bank vault for 24 years before NGC certified it in 2012.

The coin was last publicly displayed, by NGC, in August 2012 during the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia.

Doubloon origins

Brasher was a well-known silversmith and goldsmith in New York City at the time the coins were made. Brasher became a neighbor of the nation’s future first president, George Washington, on Cherry Street in lower Manhattan.

Brasher “was involved with the New York ‘Excelsior’ Coppers, the Nova Eborac coppers, and his hallmark appears on a number of foreign gold coins that circulated during his tenure in business,” according to PCGSCoinFacts.

“The Brasher doubloons were the only Colonial gold coinage issues produced with intent for circulation, and therefore, must be considered among the most important of all Colonial coinage,” Halperin said. “A case can certainly be made that these are the most important American coins, bar none.”

Two of the seven known Brasher doubloons are in museums — one in the National Numismatic Collection in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, and the other in the holdings of the American Numismatic Society.

The doubloons were minted in 1786 and 1787 by Brasher. The doubloons are absent a denomination, but numismatic research has led to the conclusion by numismatists that the coins had an intended contemporary value of $15.

“The coin’s design is evocative of the spirit of the newly formed United States. The obverse mimics the Great Seal of the United States with an eagle holding an olive branch in one claw and arrows in the other. The olive branch symbolizes a desire for peace while the arrows indicate a readiness for war. Around the obverse is the motto, E PLURIBUS UNUM, which means ‘Out of Many, One’ – the 13 states form one country,” NGC noted at the time Perschke’s coin was certified in 2012.

“On the coin’s reverse, side a sun rises above a mountain in front of a sea, likely to signify a new beginning. Around the design is a Latin legend: NOVA EBORACA * COLUMBIA * EXCELSIOR. Columbia was an old nickname for the United States, Nova Eboraca translates to New York, and Excelsior — Ever Higher — is the state’s motto. Brasher signed his name prominently in the center of the design.”

The coin in the Heritage auction and the other six pieces of the same designs are in what numismatists call the “New York Style” because of the inscription referencing the state.

The National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian also holds a unique 1787 Brasher half-doubloon — possessing approximately half the weight of a full-size doubloon and apparently struck by the regular New York dies, but on a smaller, lighter planchet.

Brasher also struck two other known pieces, referred to as “Lima Style” doubloons. Despite being dated 1742, researchers believe the Lima Style doubloons were struck in 1786, predating the 1787 New York Style coins.

In the June 1, 1992, issue of Coin World, numismatic researcher and author William Swoger traced the pedigrees of the known Brasher doubloons.

Swoger noted the pedigree for Perschke’s coin begins with the collection of Baltimore numismatist Robert Gilmor Jr.

“It was first noticed by William G. Stearns of Boston who, in a letter dated March 18, 1840, described it to Dr. Bowditch in England. After Gilmor’s death it passed through inheritance to his nephew, Harry Gilmore (1838-83). Lyman Low likely purchased it from his heirs. It appeared as Lot 524 in Low’s 16th sale, June 27, 1887, of the John T. Raymond collection, where it failed to bring the reserve,” Swoger wrote in the 1992 Coin World article.

“Low bought it in and sold it privately to Harold P. Newlin in 1887,” Swoger continued. “A short time later Newlin sold it to his Philadelphia friend, Robert Coulton Davis, whose collection was auctioned by the New York Coin & Stamp Co. (Harlan Smith & David Proskey) on Jan. 20-24, 1890. Lot 2342 was purchased by John G. Mills and sold to James Ten Eyck. As Lot 374, it preceded the Lima-style piece in Mehl’s Ten Eyck auction in 1922, and went to Virgil Michael Brand of Chicago.

“Virgil died June 20, 1926, and his brother, Horace Louis Phillip Brand, inherited it. About 1962, he sold it to Robert Friedberg (Capitol Coin Co. of New York). Friedberg died June 14, 1963, and his brother, Jack Friedberg, became the new owner.”

Jack Friedberg, according to Swoger, consigned the Brasher doubloon to RARCOA. The coin became lot 1433 in the first of what became known as the “apostrophe” sales, with sessions conducted separately with consignments from four different numismatic companies.

Auction ’79, held at the Henry VIII Inn at Bridgeton, Mo., on July 27, 1979, was where Perschke purchased the coin, establishing his place in its numismatic legacy. ¦

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